‘I’m suffocating’: French police investigated over Paris delivery driver death

Doria Chouviat (C) and her relatives at a rally in January for her late husband, Cedric Chouviat, a delivery driver who died after being held during a police check.

FOUR French police officers are being investigated over the death of a delivery driver who was pinned to the ground and reportedly cried “I’m suffocating” over and over again.

Cédric Chouviat, a 42-year-old father of five, died from a heart attack after being arrested following an altercation with police near the Eiffel Tower in Paris in early January.

The arrest itself, involving three officers, lasted 22 seconds, during which Chouviat said seven times the phrase “I’m suffocating,” according to the report and an expert assessment seen by AFP (Associated Free Press).

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The scooter driver, from the northern Paris suburb of Levallois, was taken to hospital in a critical condition and was pronounced dead two days later. The results of a post-mortem said he had suffocated with “fracture of the larynx,” and Paris prosecutors opened a manslaughter inquiry.

The four officers implicated were taken into custody on June 17 and questioned as part of the investigation. According to French media they have been summoned for more questioning in early July.

Investigators are said to have analysed 13 videos taken off the scene, including nine filmed by the driver himself, three recorded by one of the four police officers present, and another from a motorist.

Several days after the event, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the post-mortem raised “legitimate questions, to which responses (should) be brought with all due transparency.”

The death in May of George Floyd in the United States has revived a debate over police violence and racial discrimination in France. Protests have focused on Adama Traore, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016.

Earlier this month the interior minister said that the controversial “chokehold” sometimes used in arrests would be “abandoned.” However the government did a U-turn in the face of protests by police unions, and said the technique would no longer be taught, but stopped short of a total ban.

Appealing for calm, the lawyers demanded more serious charges against the officers, and an end to police arrest techniques involving “strangling and stomach tackling,” adding that there was a spiral of events in France that quickly needed to be halted.

One of the lawyers, Arié Alimi, also condemned police culture he claimed involved provocation with insults and targeted working class communities and in particular Black and Arab people.

Responding to the news conference on BFMTV, (BFM TV is a 24-hour rolling news and weather channel based in France), Denis Jacob from the union ‘Alternative Police’ accused the lawyers of orchestrating the case, saying the legal process should be allowed to run its course to get to the bottom of what happened.


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